Typically narcissistic blogging.

Body Modification Does Not Entitle You To Equal Opportunity Employment Protection

I just came across this petition requesting that people with tattoos and piercings be given equal opportunity protection, making ink and metal equal to gender, sexuality, race, religion, disability, national origin, etc.

Um, no.

No. Just no. Please take this ridiculous claim to EEOC and shove it.

Equal opportunity employment exists to protect people from discrimination against choices they could not make. Let me repeat that, in all caps, because maybe those of you who think this petition is the one for you are a little too self-involved, privileged, and entitled to have missed it when it was just in italics. EEOC exists to protect people from discrimination against choices THEY COULD NOT MAKE.

I will never argue that employers should be able to discriminate against tattooed and pierced candidates. I have many, many tattoos and prefer to be able to show them off whenever possible. I am proud of my body art, and I love it. I would like to be able to walk into any office and not have to worry about them being a factor in the hiring decision.

But I also recognize that every bit of ink in my skin was my choice, unlike my gender, race, sexuality, and national origin.

If you want to be recognized as a viable candidate despite the ink and holes you have put in your flesh, then lobby for a separate law, one that forces employers to turn a blind eye to your body modifications and just look at your on-paper qualifications. SCOTUS is not going to turn people with body modification into a suspect class any time soon (see: “immutable“), so stop pretending you are one. Take your ridiculous entitlement and privilege and do something valuable with it.

31 responses

  1. Alexei

    Yeah, it’s a little hard to miss the whiff of “buyer’s remorse” on this one. I definitely feel that employers SHOULDN’T discriminate against people with tattoos, but it’s clear that there’s a stigma attached to it in our culture, and people who don’t consider that and then want to cry discrimination are doing everyone a disservice.

    Start a campaign to change people’s minds, if you feel so moved.

    –Alexei

    P.S. This does something interesting to your definition of privilege, I think. Since, effectively, these are people who COULD HAVE walked away from this fight in the past, and didn’t.

    February 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    • It’s true—although the thing about tattoos and piercings is that they can be removed and altered. So it is still a fight any one of us with body mods can actually walk away from. That’s a harsh statement, obviously—nobody as dedicated to body mods as I or anybody in the community might be wants to do that. But the possibility is always there, and the tech for doing it is improving at record speeds. Which means that nobody with body mods has really chosen to leave their privilege behind. They’ve just made it more inconvenient to achieve in full again.

      February 27, 2012 at 2:25 pm

  2. I always wonder if people who push for these kinds of laws do as much work to advocate on behalf of people of color, trans people, or women in the workplace.

    February 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    • Call me cynical, but I figure if they are ignorant and self-involved enough to equate ink with gender/race/etc.? Not so much.

      February 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

  3. Sykosmurph

    I remember in the 90s that people were getting tatts and body mods to be “edgy” or “X-treme” in the vernacular of the time. Facial, throat, hands and forearms. Any time I brought up their future prospects for employment or lack there of I got snorts of derision in reply based on the fact that I “didn’t get it”. Well welcome to the edge. Have fun out there.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm

  4. Cygna

    May I recommend “Covering” by Kenji Yoshino? He writes about the problem with living where the law ends and “please make yourself less ethnic/queer/freaky because it’s bothering the norms” begins, basically, and suggests that civil rights conversations have to expand to deal with discrimination based not on “not being” majority, but “not passing” for majority. This is coming from a queer Japanese-American Harvard law prof and poet.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    • I will check it out. Thanks!

      February 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    • jb

      I had to look him up and briefly read his background. Never heard of him before, and I can see why you’d suggest reading the book. The subject matter is definitely related.

      I was surprised at how many Tokyo sento and capsule hotels outright banned and discriminated against people with tattoos 10 years ago. Perhaps things have changed since then, but the association of tattoos with a criminal class or gang was still fairly strong in spite of the growing number of young (read in their 20s-30s) people with tattoos in the city.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  5. I definitely agree with you on this one. I realized I was signing up for a professional life of long sleeves and high neck shirts. If you aren’t adult enough to realize that unless you are in an industry that is highly accepting of body modifications, that you may have to cover them up in a professional environment, you aren’t adult enough to be receiving said modification.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    • Exactly. And while I do want things to chnage, and really do believe things should change, reality is what it is at the moment. I might be disappointed when people treat me like an uneducated punk when they see my ink (despite the fact that it takes an education to even understand what my visible tattoos even are), but I knew what I was in for when I sat in the chair.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      • Regardless of the chance of things changing, I’m keeping my mods and plan on many, many more. If and when people change, we’ll just be ahead of the game! True passion for something is doing it even when others have deemed it “unacceptable.”

        February 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm

  6. Sam

    I can cover my tattoos and take out my piercings…. I’m still gonna be a 6′ 6″ 300lb black man. It really just isn’t the same thing.

    February 29, 2012 at 1:45 am

  7. Adding another vote that, while employers really “shouldn’t” discriminate against body mods, this isn’t even close to the same thing. And yes, I have tats and piercings, and have even had to cover or take them out for employment. I’d rather not have to, but I don’t feel it puts me in the same boat as people being discriminated against for race, gender, sexuality, etc.

    Good post.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    • Thanks! Yeah, I’m all in favor of body mods being a nonissue, but this just isn’t the way to go about achieving that.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

  8. Lisa

    I understand that having piercings and tattoos is not the same as race, gender or sexuality, however if religion is included why not tattoos as both religion and body modification are a choice, the only difference being that nobody ever started wars over tattoos.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

    • I don’t really feel like getting into an argument over whether religion/faith is voluntary, but I think there is a real argument to be made in either direction. But what you forget is that religion is protected by the Constitution. Tattoos are not.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:22 am

  9. jb

    Wandered over here from Marisa’s blog. How could I resist “Whiskeypants” and “terminally snarky?”

    I utterly agree with your assessment of putting tattoos and piercings on EEOC, for the same reasons you posted. I’m inclined to wonder at how heavy the cultural influence is on how people react to visible/uncovered tattoo work that’s outside of “normal areas”: arm, chest, back, legs, etc.

    I’ve found that in spite knowing better, I have negative reactions to facial or neck tattoos on meeting someone initially, and that it may influence my decision while interviewing a candidate. To be fair, the quality and subject matter of the tattoo work does seem to matter.

    In the end, it isn’t a hire/no hire make or break thing. Hopefully, I’d no more use a neck tattoo as a reason to reject an interviewee than their beard or lack of one.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    • It’s interesting. When I see neck and face tattoos, I tend to shrug and think, “A choice has been made.” So I guess I am also judging–not the fact of the tattoos, but the choice that went into the placement of them. Hmmm.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm

  10. Ryan Lucky

    See the problem here is that tattoos are a first amendment right of free speech (United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) 2010) which should be protected as such. If religion can be protected under the first amendment why are tattoos different. I understand that employers have their own rights to ask me to cover my tats and use clear or flesh colored studs for my piercings but that’s simply not the case. In recent interviews I’ve been told that I’ll have to completely remove my piercings and that is forcing me to conform to someone else’s standards in my off hours. As a side note everybody here should check out Harris Interactive’s 2012 poll on tattoo’s.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:28 am

    • Sadly, while tats are protected as free speech, all that means is that you can’t force removal. It doesn’t mean that it is an acceptable form of expression in the workplace. Employers are also able to tell employees what kind of clothes to wear and to require specific grooming habits. Tattoos fall under that umbrella. Additionally, employers have quite a bit of leeway with free speech and employment. Just look at what happened at National Review this week.

      Freedom to practice religion is a differently handled issue in law, even though it falls under the same amendment.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  11. Body Mod

    This kind of talk reminds me of why we are all stuck in the same place. It reminds me that this is the reason we don’t move forward, and that this is the reason for all the hate and stereotypes and judgments. People do not get educated.
    How can you say that religion is not a choice?
    If you’re going to argue that body modifications doesn’t entitle you to equal opportunity you better get ready to argue the same for religion baby, because they’re one in the same. To say that body modifications is just a fad is irrelevant.

    If you ask around, you’ll realize that half the people with body modifications have a reason; a MEANING, behind their decision. There is meaning, a religion, behind every art.
    To take away that freedom and say that it’s not “normal”?
    Who is to define what is normal or socially acceptable?
    On top of that, religion is after all a set of strongly-held beliefs and attitudes that somebody lives by. Who is to say that body modification isn’t as much of a choice as it is a religion?

    Equal Opportunity “protects applicants and employees from discrimination in hiring, and other aspects of employment, on the basis of race, color, RELIGION, sex, and national origin”.

    Body modification has become an art form and the stiffening of this artistic expression would be a BLATANT violation of our right to free speech.
    also, Equal Opportunity states that “chances for development should be open to everybody interested such that they have an equal chance to compete within the framework of goals and the structure of rules established” which means that this petition can work. If we get enough people to protest, it can work.

    Most people are either afraid or too lazy to have a change happen. Do you have any idea what this change can do to society? How one little thing can move a lot of things forward? Even though this is only a stepping stone, it is a very powerful stepping stone. We cannot continue to discriminate and accept this discrimination. We must all work together to stop this. Next time you are in a position where you are being wrongly judged, and by wrongly judged i mean judge by your physical appearance, think back to this so that you can realize how unfair it is.

    If we all spoke up and stopped being afraid and stopped judgment, how much can we change?
    Not all people get body modifications because it looks cool.
    Many people live by it, many people have strong feelings about it.
    Without it, they wouldn’t be happy or be able to live.
    And for an employer to say that it’s “unprofessional”? How is that fair?
    What is professional?

    In fact, I beg to differ about a professional appearance. Most people are attracted to something that is out there and different. Something colorful.
    Employer who hire a colorful person are likely to get more consumers.

    I am so baffled by this entire blog post. Especially coming from someone who is tattooed up and is going against the very thing that they have. How does that make sense? that is like going against your own race, the very thing that makes you, you!

    Why must we determine which body modifications are more beautiful/acceptable?
    (Tan, implants, botox, etc)
    We should all be treated equally regardless of our outward appereance.
    We need a voice, and this is our chance.

    April 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    • You have utterly missed the point of my post, which is not that tattoos don’t deserve protection, but that this is not the right way to do it. As for religion, people who argue that religion is a choice are usually not religious.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm

  12. Ryan Lucky

    I don’t necessarily agree with everything Body Mod stated but I do agree with the fact that religion is a choice. I have in my lifetime made a conscious choice about what I believe and have migrated between several different religions. Christianity is all about choice actually, with non-belief having severe consequences. Religion isn’t something your born with it is a result of how you were socialized. Its a nature vs nurture argument. The moment you say that religion isn’t a choice is the moment people can start saying getting body alterations isn’t a choice.

    April 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    • I am not remotely religious. I just don’t feel it’s my place to say whether religion is a choice or not. I have many friends who are very invested in their faith, who would claim that their religion is not a choice, and I just don’t feel comfortable gainsaying them.

      I recognize that religion isn’t the same thing as race, gender, etc. However, between what I just stated here, and the very foundation of this country, I also realize why religion has a spot on EEOC and body mods don’t.

      The thing is, I’m not at all saying that body mods shouldn’t be protected. I just think EEOC is an extremely inappropriate way to go about it. There are states that have specific laws against discriminating due to physical appearance, and I really think that’s the right way to go. And the fastest, if you want change that doesn’t have to take at least a decade to get through SCOTUS.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm

  13. Ryan Lucky

    Why is the EEOC an “extremely inappropriate way to go about it”? I’m not disagreeing I’m merely curious. I’m currently writing a paper on this so I’m really enjoying intelligent debate on the subject. To clarify I’m saying that the EEOC should protect all body alterations (tattoos, piercings, aesthetic dentistry, plastic surgery, gender reassignment, etc.) as a first amendment right.

    April 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    • Because EEOC is designed to protect classes of people that (when it comes right down to it), SCOTUS deems in need of protection. Ultimately the First Amendment doesn’t enter into it, and it never has. Religion is included in EEOC because of specific SCOTUS cases that have upheld the right of individuals to believe as they please and practice their various religious without persecution (and given the foundation of this country, that’s always been paramount).

      I don’t believe that I deserve that specific kind of protection because I have tattoos. I believe something else is in order.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:08 pm

  14. Ryan Lucky

    I’m torn. I agree and disagree with the premise that people with tattoos don’t deserve specific protection. By leaving it in the states hands we end up with gay marriage debacles or marijuana litigation that states its fine here but there its illegal. The only way bias is dispelled is by constant challenge over time. I don’t think that it will actually be protected but if a compromise could be had where I can be considered professional at work without having to sacrifice who I want to be in my free time. Also as a side note my research is showing that upper class white collar jobs are slowly becoming more accepting of visible modifications while lower class service based jobs are staying rather restrictive. Meaning that like usual its all about how rich or poor you are and how much businesses can push people around.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    • Ultimately, I will take protection anywhere I can get it. I love my body art, and I am proud of it. I don’t believe EEOC is the right way to go, but shit, I’ll take it if it works.

      Trying to establish rights for a group is always a clusterfuck, whether on federal or state level. That’s just a fact. A really annoying, unfortunate fact.

      Best of luck with your paper, by the way. Rad subject, and creative. Very cool.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm

  15. Ryan Lucky

    Thanks, your blog is really interesting. I especially like Occupy R’lyeh and the letter to the homeless vampire. Oh and you should check this out -http://www.needlesandsins.com/2009/12/tattoo-employment-discrimination.html – Its also really affected the direction my paper is going.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:00 am

  16. I used to work a few jobs back in the day where I had to take out my gauges and cover up my tattoos. I think one day thought it will all be part of the normal.

    May 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm

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